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28 August 2020

Husch Blackwell makes first new attorney hire to join virtual office

Former in-house lawyer Elizabeth Benefield joins new US virtual law practice The Link

By Lauren Woodhead

Husch Blackwell's virtual law practice The Link will enable lawyers to work remotely Shutterstock

Husch Blackwell has hired Carolina Farm Credit’s former GC Elizabeth Benefield as a senior counsel to its new virtual law practice.

Benefield, who joins the firm’s new virtual office ‘The Link’, has significant lender-side and regulatory expertise, with more than a decade’s experience working in-house for farm credit-lending institutions. She leaves her most recent role as general counsel and standards of conduct official for Carolina Farm Credit after five years.

Eric Lenzen, head of Husch Blackwell’s financial services industry group, said: “Experience with the Farm Credit System, including its funding banks, associations, and the regulator, is not easy to find. You either have it, or you don’t, so we are excited to add that skill set to our team.”

Benefield will join ‘The Link’, which launched in July. Currently based in North Carolina, she commented that “while geography is becoming less important to some, having the advantages of Husch Blackwell’s nationwide footprint and being able to work from North Carolina are the best of both worlds.”

She added while she had decided to make a move before learning about the virtual office, “it was comforting to know the firm has put a great deal of thought and resources toward integrating remote lawyers.”

Paul Eberle, Husch Blackwell’s CEO, said: “The Link enables us to pitch a compelling value add to attorneys who might be interested in Husch Blackwell but have concerns about living and practising outside the footprint of some of our physical offices. The Link will only grow in importance as a recruiting tool across diverse practice areas.”

Before her stint at Carolina Farm Credit, Benefield spent four years as an attorney at AgFirst Farm Credit, plus time spent as a lawyer at Wilmington Trust and six years at MDA Lending Solutions.

Husch Blackwell is not the only firm taking radical steps towards a new virtual world. City firm Linklaters recently announced its new flexible working policy, enabling employees to choose to work remotely for up to 50% of their time.

While others, such as Dentons and Slater & Gordon, have closed offices in response to remote working patterns during the lockdown, many are adopting managed returns to work with staggered start times, recognising individual preferences for office work.

Lawyers at smaller firms have extolled the virtues of remote working, as the recent LexisNexis Bellweather survey demonstrated. However, other lawyers are evaluating the impact of such changes on their working lives.

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